InterDrone interactive pushpin attendee map

Hi all –

Just left InterDrone in Las Vegas and  got to LA so this will be quick.

Hats off to Ted Bahr, K-Flash, Carl and the rest of the BZ Media team who brought together a who’s who from every corner of the industry. It is absolutely astonishing how much is happening simultaneously on so many fronts. The very considerable expertise and brainpower was showcased in a non-stop smorgasbord of sessions, keynotes and neat events. This was one amazing conference and I am proud to have been a part of it as a presenter and media partner.

Michael Huerta kicked it off with a review of the FAA’s growing list of accomplishments put a fine cap on things saying that the FAA was always prepared to listen and collaborate. As you might expect, Part 107 infused the proceedings with a certain giddiness and lots of comments along the lines of this changes everything… A lot of sessions started with a hand check, a surprising number of people had taken the test.

BTW The latest Knowledge Test numbers are in through 9/8. Some 4,000 have taken the test and 3,600 have passed – the pass rate has remained rock solid at 88%. In all, over 10,000 remote pilot apps (IARCA) are in process and over 7,000 have been completed. That is an impressive turnout and some serious paper pushing. Your turn TSA.

If there was a theme, it was the continuing collision between aviation culture and the high-flying venture fueled vision being pushed out in keynotes by Chris Anderson from 3DR, Greg McNeal from AirMap and others. The vision of a world filled with autonomous drones constantly flying hither and yon begs the question of what the business propositions are that will fuel all this activity. We may well get there, but we’ve got a few other things to take care while the “ifs and whens”
get sorted.

Meanwhile there’s plenty of old fashioned flying to do. When I went to the sessions with guys who flew drones for a living, the talk was a lot more pragmatic. The rule is one man, one drone and it takes a whole lot of doing to make it through the day and complete the checklist. As always NATE (National Association of Tower Erectors) an 850-member association represented by Executive Director Todd Schlekeway impressed. The value proposition changes when you discover that drones let the tower climbers determine if there are any bee hives on the way to the top…

Mark McKinnon from Dentons did a nice job chairing a panel on FAA Regulations: The Latest Outlook. Hoot Gibson was on the panel and was impressive adding a lot of insight and dimension to Administrator Huerta’s words.

Jennifer Richter, a partner at Akin Gump, dazzled me with her command of the intricacies of Satisfying the Spectrum Needs of Small UAVs. I might have called it “Real Life After WiFi”, it’s an area very few people are aware of, much less
can explain.

I moderated a funding panel – a full third of the attendees at our session were looking for funding – thanks to my guys Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Musaffi and Ryan Armbrust. I attended several others – Kyle Landry from Lux Research, Michael Blades from Frost & Sullivan and Bryan Dow from Mooreland Partners all added insight and shared their methodologies.

The consensus is that it is still very early days. The shift is on from hardware to software. The killer app is still out there in the future, the compelling business model has not emerged and there is not enough differentiation to escape commoditization. Or as Ryan put it, “why buy now when you can buy it in a year or two.” As the discussion becomes more and more about data and analytics, my bet is that in three to five years the Expo will look more and more like a
software show.

Talking about the Expo floor. There were 160 exhibitors, a non-stop stream of press releases and plenty of dead carbon fiber trees. But imagine my surprise when I turned the corner to find the Yellow Father, Eastman Kodak selling Effortless 360 VR in the form of their new VR One goggles offering Virtual Reality For Everyone. Yep, cats really do have nine lives.

A number of stellar keynotes. Anil V. Nanduri, VP in the New Technology Group and General Manager of the UAV segment at Intel did a great high-risk live demo in the best Valley tradition including a LTE Facebook live stream from a Typhoon flying on stage. Better yet was the Falcon demo where the stalwart pilot flew it minus one and then minus two props.

Hugh Palmer is Director of Product Management at Local Motors, a technology company that designs, builds and sells vehicles using the power of Co-Creation – a kind of open source approach supported by a global community of 60,000 technologists who work on projects. They were presenting their first UAS assignment for Airbus. In three months they got over 400 submissions. This is pretty amazing stuff.

They saved the best for last. After a couple of days of hype and earnestness, Tian Yu, CEO of Yuneec, charmed the crowd with his obvious passion for electric aviation and an inspiring success story wrapped in a wry humor and a spritz of humility. It was authentic and heartfelt and together with their sparkling white booth, I think Yuneec made quite an impression.

In case that wasn’t enough, I got to meet all sorts of great and interesting people and catch up with friends. The good news is that what happened in Vegas is now on its way around the world. I’ll be back next month for Commercial UAV Expo – hope to see you there for Halloween in the drone cage.

Thanks for reading and for sharing.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter


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